Little Rock, Arkansas – The Arkansas Public Service Commission is currently considering recommendations regarding Arkansas’s “net metering” rules and regulations (Docket 16-027-R). Net-metering customers refer to Arkansans who generate their own electricity via renewable energy systems like solar power. At a hearing on November 30, the Commission will hear from experts and the public about the benefits that net metering provides to all utility customers. Among the evidence that the Commission will consider is a report, commissioned by Sierra Club, that quantifies both the costs incurred and the benefits provided by net-metering Entergy Arkansas customers and shows that net metering is good for all ratepayers. The study had the support and input of a broad range of solar advocates and businesses.
“We should be doing everything possible to encourage and assist Arkansans who want to use clean solar energy,” said the Sierra Club’s Bob Allen. “My family first invested in a solar power system at our home eight years ago, and we have been saving money on our electric bill ever since. The Public Service Commission should not make it economically harder for other Arkansans to do what we have done. Clean energy benefits all electric customers in our state–let’s encourage more clean energy, not discourage it.”
Under current law, Arkansas net-metering customers may generate their own power and receive a 1:1 retail credit for any unused power sent back to their local utility. In Docket 16-027-R, the Commission is taking a new look at its net metering rules in response to 2015 legislation. The utilities, along with the Attorney General and several other parties to the proceeding, have proposed to cut the rate at which solar customers are compensated for power they send back to the grid by half. Their “two-channel billing” proposal would not only drastically reduce the compensation that a solar customer receives, but also make it extremely hard to forecast the potential bill savings that a customer might see if they go solar.
“Solar energy is a growing industry that significantly benefits the state’s economy by creating jobs and lowering energy costs for households and businesses,” said Katie Laning Niebaum, Executive Director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, an intervening party in the docket. “AAEA member companies report that consumer awareness regarding solar’s affordable price and short-term payback has grown. As a result, companies have added new positions to meet growing consumer demand and new companies have entered the marketplace in the last few years alone. We urge the Commission to allow the market to continue to grow unfettered by unnecessary policy barriers.”
Distributed renewable energy generation provides clean low-cost energy that alleviates the need to build new transmission lines and power plants, also reducing the need to purchase expensive, out-of-state fuels like the coal imported from the Wyoming Powder River Basin into Arkansas.
“For years, Audubon Arkansas has worked with utilities and regulators in Arkansas to reduce the amount of energy we waste and increase reliance on clean, local renewable resources. Climate change is the number one threat to Arkansas’s birds, and the energy sector is the number one contributor of greenhouse gases. We can’t fulfill our mission of protecting Arkansas’s birds and their habitat without making a transition to clean energy, and distributed solar power is an important part of the solution,” said Gary Moody, Public Affairs Manager, Audubon Arkansas. “It makes economic and environmental sense. We cannot afford any policy shift that short-changes Arkansas ratepayers who make clean-energy upgrades on their personal property.”
The Commission’s hearing begins at 9:30 a.m., on Thursday, November 30th. The public has an opportunity to offer comment to the Commission that morning.